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CWE-1328: Security Version Number Mutable to Older Versions

Weakness ID: 1328
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Security-version number in hardware is mutable, resulting in the ability to downgrade (roll-back) the boot firmware to vulnerable code versions.
+ Extended Description

A System-on-Chip (SoC) implements secure boot or verified boot. It might support a security version number, which prevents downgrading the current firmware to a vulnerable version. Once downgraded to a previous version, an adversary can launch exploits on the SoC and thus compromise the security of the SoC. These downgrade attacks are also referred to as roll-back attacks.

The security version number must be stored securely and persistently across power-on resets. A common weakness is that the security version number is modifiable by an adversary, allowing roll-back or downgrade attacks or, under certain circumstances, preventing upgrades (i.e. Denial-of-Service on upgrades). In both cases, the SoC is in a vulnerable state.

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.285Improper Authorization
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.757Selection of Less-Secure Algorithm During Negotiation ('Algorithm Downgrade')
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1196Security Flow Issues
+ Modes Of Introduction

The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

Architecture and Design
ImplementationSuch issues could be introduced during hardware architecture and design, and can be identified later during testing or system configuration phases.
+ Applicable Platforms
The listings below show possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.


Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Security IP (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: Technology-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.


Technical Impact: Other

Impact includes roll-back or downgrade to a vulnerable version of the firmware or DoS (prevent upgrades).
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

A new version of firmware is signed with a security version number higher than the previous version. During the firmware update process the SoC checks for the security version number and upgrades the SoC firmware with the latest version. This security version number is stored in persistent memory upon successful upgrade for use across power-on resets.

In general, if the security version number is mutable, the implmentation is vulnerable. A mutable security version number allows an adversary to change the security version to a lower value to allow roll-back or to a higher value to prevent future upgrades.

The security version number should be stored in immutable hardware such as fuses, and the writes to these fuses should be highly access-controlled with appropriate authentication and authorization protections.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

When architecting the system, security version data should be designated for storage in registers that are either read-only or have access controls that prevent modification by an untrusted agent.

Phase: Implementation

During implementation and test, security version data should be demonstrated to be read-only and access controls should be validated.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Dynamic Analysis

Mutability of stored security version numbers and programming with older firmware images should be part of automated testing.

Effectiveness: High

Architecture or Design Review

Anti-roll-back features should be reviewed as part of Architecture or Design review.

Effectiveness: High

+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-04-25Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar MannaIntel Corporation
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Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021